For nearly a month, Anglo-Iranian relations have been strained by the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar and a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf. On July 24, the public relations office of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) announced in a statement that British oil tanker Stena Impero was detained and escorted to coastal waters while crossing the Strait of Hormuz for failure to comply with international maritime laws and regulations. The British oil tanker was seized just two weeks after the British navy seized an Iranian oil tanker in the Gibraltar Strait under the pretext of violating EU sanctions against Syria, while Iran had said the tanker was not heading to Syria. Also following these developments, London proposed the formation of a European naval force to protect tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.
After the British oil tanker was seized, both the United States and Britain are seeking a way to “protect ships and commercial oil tankers” and thus seek consensus and drafting supporters. On the one hand, the United States is arguing that its aim at such a consensus is European and Persian Gulf states; on the other hand, Britain says it is considering these countries but brags that they want to do so in the Persian Gulf and that the US is not very involved. But in return, the US has invited all countries to play a part.
My impression is that Western countries know for some reason that this is not an easy task to accomplish; first, there are differences among themselves, and some European countries are reluctant to join the alliance, and some others, such as Germany, have declared this action by the UK and the United States will exacerbate tensions in the region and may even lead to a military conflict, while efforts should be made to reduce tensions.
Maybe the UK is doing this for another purpose and wants to pressure Iran to release the seized oil tanker. Of course, I do not think that by such actions Iran will yield to the demands of the British. So the British have taken the wrong course and it was better to release the ship carrying the Iranian cargo in Gibraltar, which would have provided Iran with an opportunity in the Persian Gulf to speed up the British ship’s judicial course of action and let it go.
So the recent US and British action is to some extent a propaganda ploy coupled with pressure and drafting supporters. One has to see what happens next and what the countries will decide based on what is happening.
But what is certain is that the British Navy is not strong enough to somehow protect the merchant ships passing through the area or declare that other forces joining them can provide security for the region. Certainly, any action in this direction means militarization of the Persian Gulf and will lead to increased tensions. This not only will not solve any problem but will add to the problems, and it is Britain who will face a crisis.
So it is better to resolve the tension in the Persian Gulf through peaceful means, dialogue, releasing the ship and getting a positive response from Iran. The time Britain used to issue threats in the region, the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, and the Oman Sea is over and London must understand that in the present conditions America is not a country to be trusted.
The Americans are seeking economic pressure on Iran to bring the Islamic Republic to the negotiating table and they would use this to boost their election campaign. As a result, the goals the British want to pursue in the Persian Gulf may not be consistent with US goals from one point onward and the United States may stop backing them. Also, if the United Kingdom acts impulsively in the Persian Gulf, not all the Western countries will be behind it, because most European countries believe that Britain is the cause of this crisis and they do not want to engage in a crisis the outcome of which is not unclear.